POLL RESULTS: Should PR Interns Pitch The Media?

July 6th, 2011
by Tressa Robbins

This post first appeared on PRconnection (7.5.11) and is cross-posted with permission.

Poll Results: Should Interns Pitch The MediaIt’s been nearly two years since I first broached the subject of whether PR interns should pitch The Media. At that time, it seemed, most people had a very strong opinion one way or the other so I decided to do a quick poll and report the results.

And it is a topic that still sparks a lot of debate today. I’ve seen some recent chatter on Twitter about who should be pitching The Media and thought it was time to resurrect the poll and see what, if anything, has changed in the past couple years.

To the question, “Should PR interns pitch the media,” I got 71 votes and 11 comments using the LinkedIn polls tool. Since there are more women in PR than men, it’s not surprising that the respondents were mostly female.

Respondents could choose from the following answers:

  • Yes
  • Yes with direct supervision
  • Depends on the circumstances
  • No

Only 15 percent said “No” (as in, “never”).

Of those that replied with a “No,” Mitch Leff, owner of Leff & Associates PR firm, commented, “Wow…If I was a client, I’m hiring the agency for their expertise and to have their best people on my account. No way I’d pay an agency to have an intern pitching! Wow again.”

Of those that replied, “Yes with direct supervision,” Rodger D. Johnson, PR pro and professor (aka @getsocialpr) suggested:

“Interns need to learn how to pitch and the best way to do that is to pitch. They also need coaching, which is why it is best to have supervision early on. I might add that supervision should be in the roll of coach, teacher or mentor. And agency owners need to understand sometimes interns make mistakes. At the same time, a good agency owner or corporate communications director who be in the business of building people. After all, investing in people is how we build relationships, right?”

My personal thoughts are in-line with Rodger’s – how can you learn without doing?  And, isn’t this business all about investing in and building relationships with people?

There were other great comments as well.  If you’d like, you can review the comments and full results here, but let’s continue this conversation. What do you think?

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10 Responses to “POLL RESULTS: Should PR Interns Pitch The Media?”

  1. SCarragher says:

    I think interns absolutely should be permitted to pitch the media. The idea is to not only educate the intern, but to identify weaknesses and strengths and perhaps, find talent for one’s business.

    The mentors need to be able to SHOW or DEMONSTRATE how it’s done. This stuff isn’t taught in the classroom, nor sadly do many mentors demonstrate how to do it. They tend to give a quick pep talk and walk away to a “meeting” leaving the intern to face-off with an Assignment Desk Editor. That’s like having a kid square off with a combat-tried Marine.

    I was one of those interns who had to figure it out after a pep talk. Sadly, I thought that’s how it’s done. Now, I do it differently. I role play before sending them out, and when possible, set them up for success on their first call by giving them the list of “nice guys” to cut their teeth on.

  2. SCarragher says:

    One more thing… CELEBRATE their success. Who didn’t get jazzed when their first pitch was successful?

    And when possible, I like to thank my “nice guys” for being patient and ask how we can improve. It’s about relationships, right?

  3. Excellent comment and advice! Role playing is crucial IMHO. Yes, it is all about relationships, and I can remember my first media placement like it was yesterday – when in reality it was more than 15 years ago (ack, am I really that old? ;-) ). Thanks for your feedback.

  4. Mitch’s thoughts on interns pitching is way off. And I stand by my point that interns learn how to pitch by pitching. Let me add interns shouldn’t be pitching on high profile campaigns where the stakes are high, unless they show tremendous talent. College training can only take budding professionals so far, so it’s important for agencies and corporations to set aside projects where the stakes aren’t so high but the challenge is still there. And agency owners or corporate communications professions should pair interns with season staff member(s) with good coaching ability.

    Everyone who learns something must practice to become better. Although failing is inevitable, its through those trials that interns hone their skills, learn from their mistakes and professionalize their talents.

    Oh, and don’t forget to celebrate success too. Right on SCarragher!. Right on!

  5. Agree, Rodger, that education only goes so far. From what I’m hearing in the various groups where I posted the poll, most universities are not teaching media relations (or it’s only a small piece of a course). Of those that are learning about it in school, it seems they stop at the “writing a pitch” stage. While that’s certainly critical, it’s only half the battle! That’s where mentoring and internships should then step-in and teach the “art of the pitch” by role playing and coaching.

  6. Sara Steffan says:

    I agree with SCarragher, in so much that the supervisor needs to give the intern something that they can manage. One of my first assignments in media pitching was for a technology product that I didn’t understand how it worked or why someone would even want to write about it. That plus pitching to a very large, well-respected newspaper did not equal success. If I were the supervisor, I would demonstrate to the intern what makes a successful pitch and make sure the intern knows the product inside and out before even picking up the phone.

    And don’t let them give up if it doesn’t go well. I never pitched again in that internship after a bad experience and I regret it. Reaping the rewards makes all the work worth it!

  7. Sonja Popp-Stahly says:

    As a client, I would have reservations about my agency using an intern to pitch the media. How much does the intern know about my company/product/service? How much do they know about working with the media?

    But as someone who believes strongly in PR education, I know first-hand that this is a profession best learned by doing. Hands-on experience is vital to learning PR. Before interns — or entry-level employees — are allowed to pitch the media, they need lots of coaching and supervision. Have them sit in and observe colleagues make media calls. Have them do practice/mock calls. I never received proper coaching when I was new to the profession and making that first call to the media was nerve-wracking. Proper training will set up everyone for success.

  8. JR Rochester says:

    I have read everyone’s comments on PR Connection, here, and LinkedIn. I am still a student and I definitely would like the opportunity to be able to pitch. That being said I have read a heavy theme from professionals including mentorship and training. I would not want to disappoint as an intern and as a young professional. I am extremely proud of my work and being thrown in too early, or just letting an intern fly by the seat of their pants is not good coaching either and would be a discouragement to me. If I had an internship that dealt with clients such as an agency I would definitely like to sit in on the calls, the meetings, and most importantly like Sonja said “Have them do practice/mock calls.”

  9. I hear you, Sonja. I remember that first call – it was very intimidating! But, like you, I believe there’s no replacement for doing.

  10. Yes, JR, it can be a real set-back if you’re thrown in too early. Having said that, sometimes your supervisor (coach/mentor) may think you’re ready before you do. Take their confidence in you as a compliment and jump in! :-)

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